Originally Posted by Socket
Some years ago, I read that Wheaton was running a charitable foundation (his own?) and doing some motivational speaking. Every now and then, I see an article by him in a tennis magazine.
David Wheaton's picks for the Australian Open (Hewitt, Mauresmo). Guess he's still alive and kicking in Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota after all.
Last update: January 16, 2005 at 7:07 AM
First slam can warm you up
David Wheaton, Special To The Star Tribune
January 16, 2005 WHEA0116
Pull the shades, close your eyes, and visualize sweaty and suntanned athletes scampering around tennis courts under the summer sun.
While it might be hard for us tundra-bound Minnesotans to imagine this scene, be assured that two seasons away on the under side of the globe, the best tennis players in the world are primed to perspire and persevere their way through a scorching fortnight of tennis at the year's first Grand Slam event--the 2005 Australian Open.
Indeed, the tennis season has arrived Down Under, and in the words of a local radio talker, it's time for American tennis stars to "make a move."
For our top racqueteers, 2004 is finally over, as in: a Wimbledon final for Andy Roddick and Serena Williams, an Olympic final for Mardy Fish, and a Davis Cup final for the U.S. team.
American tennis fans, brace yourselves for this: Last year was the first since 1988 that America has gone a calendar year without at least one male or female Grand Slam titleist.
Blame it on the Russians ... at least for our ladies. To say the Russians are coming would be both tardy and misleading. They arrived last year, winning the French Open (Anastasia Myskina), Wimbledon (Maria Sharapova), and U.S. Open (Svetlana Kuznetsova). Anyone with visions of Grand Slam grandeur will have to negotiate through one or some of them (including '04 French and U.S. Open bridesmaid, Elena Dementieva--yes, the one with the sidearm, cupcake serve).
Strangely enough, Californian Lindsay Davenport garnered the year-end No. 1 ranking in 2004 without surpassing the semis of a major. With a waning ability to carpe diem in the latter rounds of a slam, more than just the ranking system needs to be retooled for her to win in Melbourne.
Which leaves us with the Williams sisters. Remember them? The ones who virtually traded off winning majors for a couple of years? "You take this one, Serena. Oh, no, Venus, wouldn't think of it--you take it." Now, what appeared to be an impending decade of dominance is becoming an increasing duration of disappearance.
Slamless since 2001, Venus' confidence has been badly shaken, her ranking now residing just within the top 10. Perhaps even worse, her peers have confidence that Venus is conquerable.
Serena, not much higher in the rankings at No. 7, seems more to suffer from a case of tennis-attention deficit disorder, the remedy for which reads backwards: Re-order surplus attention to tennis. In other words, "stick to your day job and leave Hollywood for later." My breath is not held.
Andy and Andre
As for our men, America's best hopes on the rubbery, bouncy, sticky Rebound Ace courts of Melbourne Park are Andy Roddick, with his high-kicking serve and heavy forehand, and Andre Agassi, with his know-how of four Aussie Open crowns. Amazingly proficient, if not a slight bit unpredictable, my money would be on the 34-year-old to dazzle rather than fizzle in his southern hemispheric home.
The younger gun, Roddick, perhaps in an attempt to solve the Roger Riddle (i.e. one win, eight losses vs. Federer), recently evicted one coach, Brad Gilbert, and invited another into his camp, Dean Goldfine (who is the former coach of Todd Martin, who, by the way, is now working with Minnesota-born Mardy Fish, who should be helped by the aforementioned professionalism and on-court intelligence). Got all that?
This year will be telling for Roddick. Capturing a second Slam will top his "to do" list, but after a long and majorless 2004 campaign that ended with December Davis Cup disappointment in Spain, the quick turnaround to the Aussie Open might not have afforded enough rest for the weary. Don't count him out, though--he has plenty of game, and even more importantly, he's a gamer.
The Americans might be glad that 2005 has arrived, but there is one man who certainly wishes last year never ended. As a matter of fact, reports out of China have 2004 being appropriately renamed "The Year of Roger Federer." Fitting, for sure, as the displaced "Wood Monkey" didn't garner three Grand Slams, eight other titles, including the year-ending Master's Cup, amass a 74-6 record, and finish the year No. 1 by the length of the Great Wall. That's a Hall of Fame career, for goodness sake, not one year.
All of it done with the appearance of ease, it was also done coachless. That will change this year, as Roger has now teamed with Roche--as in Tony, the Aussie tennis legend. (My advice to Tony: Bring him water, bring him towel, shut up.) Then again, Roger couldn't possibly duplicate, or, dare I say, improve on last year, could he? Let me put it this way: Samson proceeded to struggle after his hair was cut; Federer is 10-0 since being shorn in November.
Yet picking Federer to win the first slam of the year would be like saying Randy Moss will create controversy any given Sunday. The odds are not long. I'm going with Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, a former No. 1 (and now, a former fiancé of Kim Clijsters) who resurfaced last year, reaching the final of the U.S. Open (where you-know-who spanked him) and the Master's Cup (where you-know-who spanked him again). If the Swiss clock somehow goes out of rhythm, look for "Nasty," as his compatriots call him, to gain his first title in his homeland. (When in doubt, go with spurned love, I always say.) And just for the record, I'll take fit Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo to win her first Slam.
A new year, a new beginning. A turn of calendar, a turn of fortune. These are the dreams dancing in the heads of players Down Under. Dreams that annually come true in a land called Oz.